The University of Sydney has opened a new $12 million research centre in partnership with the NSW government to support the agricultural industry with digital technology and robotic farming.
The International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture will be based at the university’s Plant Breeding Institute, a 2000-hectare site near Narrabri in the NSW North Western Slopes region.
New facilities at the site include genetic and agronomy labs, along with digital and robotic workplaces and meeting spaces to foster industry engagement.
Research at the centre will be focused on wheat, chickpeas, faba beans and other summer crops, while also addressing challenges to farming systems such as weed management, soil science, field robotics, and emerging crops.
NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said the state’s $9.45 million investment in the new centre will support research that contributes to improved resilience in the face of future dry spells and droughts.
“This research will [focus on] adapting crops for drought tolerance, providing food security solutions and boosting productivity of farmers,” he said.
Sydney Institute of Agriculture director, Professor Alex McBratney, said the investment from the government affirms the continuing importance of science’s role in agriculture and regional communities.
“The new International Crop and Digital Agricultural Research Centre will ensure a strong and lasting future for cutting-edge agricultural research and industry outreach," McBratney said.
Additional funding for the centre of $1.5 million comes from the Wheat Research Foundation, and the Grains research Development Corporation is contributing an extra $1 million.
The investment is expected to double employment at the site to 80 staff and attract researchers and postgraduate students from around the world.